As you might have gathered from our Vital Biometrics Month primer, when it comes to a body’s natural processes, there are some very far out applications in terms of technology. From healthy living, to monitoring astronauts during missions to helping curate an EDM concert, the measurements of the heart open up a ton of exciting possibilities.
Of course, those applications all involve some sort of health monitoring and data aggregation, but recent innovations have even further expanded the application horizons of vital biometrics. It turns out that your cardiac rhythm is another unique biological trait that can be used to identify you.
So what does it mean when you can harness the uniqueness of a heartbeat? The doors of possibility open up even further.
Wearability and Proximity
The best way to illustrate how a vital biometric authentication solution works is to look at the only one currently out there. Bionym, a Toronto-based biometrics company, has created the Nymi, which allows users to move beyond passwords and PINs with the power of their hearts combined with exciting advances in technology.
There are two obstacles in using a heart’s signature as an authentication factor and both have to do with its location in the human body. I shouldn’t have to tell you that your heart is (hopefully) located in your chest and can be simply presented to a scanner for measurement. Your heart is hidden, and is more difficult to access than a face or fingerprint. The good news is that, thanks to a little thing called the circulatory system, we have other ways of understanding what a heart is doing at any given moment.
Nymi is a wristband that a user wears to receive the benefits of strong authentication. When the Nymi is first put on, it measures the user’s EKG reading from the wrist and then persistently offers identity verification while the wristband is being worn. That solves the hidden heart dilemma.
In terms of actually authenticating a transaction, Nymi offers a constant contactless proximity factor. As a trusted device in a growing ecosystem of connected devices, it essentially allows compatible technology to see a user as a unique individual.
The long term applications of this near-frictionless authentication are exciting to say the least.
The Heart of Commerce
Last week Bionym announced that the Nymi will be enabling payments. Considering that the consumer-facing biometrics industry is so bent on payment usecases – largely thanks to Apple Pay, Alipay and PayPal – this is big news.
Using the method described above, a Nymi that is associated with a bank or credit account can make contactless payments at point of sale terminals.
Currently in a trial phase, this is the world’s first wearable biometric payment solution.
“We’re continuing to work to provide customers increased choice how they pay,” said Royal Bank of Canada’s head of payments innovation, Jeremy Bornstein, in the press release announcing the trial. RBC is one of the financial institutions participating in the vital biometrics payment trial along with MasterCard and others.
“Once their wristband is activated, they can leave their phone at home while they go for a run or run an errand and conveniently and securely buy a coffee or groceries with a tap of the wrist.”
That kind of convenience in payment is only the beginning though. As connectivity starts to change the world we live in, persistent vital biometric authentication will become increasingly relevant.
Loving the Internet of Things
The machine to machine (M2M) network, popularly known as the Internet of Things, holds an incredible amount of potential in terms of making life more convenient, comfortable and secure. Connecting your vital biometric identity to that network will make interfacing with the rest of the world more personal.
In the same way that the Nymi can authorize a payment, it can unlock a car and reload your favorite entertainment and comfort presets, unlock your phone and literally open doors or turn on lights on your home.
With persistent authentication enabled by the beating of your heart and the connectivity of the future, vital biometrics are already starting to carve out an important place in the multi-modal world of identity.